Marcel Kittel concluded stage 1 in the top 10, three days after being forced to abandon Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen due to stomach problems.
A pan-flat stage, out-and-back the town of Bolsward – an important trade and port city during the Middle Ages – opened the 12th edition of the Eneco Tour, a race that straddles two countries and puts on the table a Classics-style parcours, that is sure to lead to spectacular fireworks and take the sting out of the riders' legs as they will fight for stage victories and the general classification.
Five men went up the road once the neutral zone was left behind and were given green light by the bunch to stay at the front until the final 10 kilometers, contesting the golden kilometer sprints. After the catch was made, several teams tried to organize themselves, but the narrow road made it almost impossible, so it came down to a messy prolonged sprint.
Victorious at the end of the day was Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), ahead of Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), while Etixx – Quick-Step's Marcel Kittel came 9th, a good result considering he was blocked in the finishing stretch and couldn't unleash his powerful sprint.
"I was hoping for more, but I can't say I'm disappointed. The stage finale was super fast and hectic, as all the sprinters tried to be at the front. Tom did a great job in protecting me, Matteo was also there, and after their work was done, I jumped from wheel to wheel and took the one of Boasson Hagen. My plan was to sprint with 250 meters to go, but Nizzolo came from the right and brought several riders with him, blocking my way. I had no more space, and it's a real pity, because I was feeling great and still had enough power to do a good sprint", said Marcel Kittel, a former stage winner at the Eneco Tour, before heading to the hotel.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele